SINCE the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) have complied with the law of notifying Police on their intention to demonstrate and show Government that they are aggrieved by the imposition of the wage freeze, it is only fair that they are allowed to do so.
We also hope that the ZCTU will allow those who oppose the lifting of the wage freeze to express themselves.
ZCTU and its affiliates have for some time now been complaining about Government’s unilateral decision to freeze wages and recruitment of workers to the public service.
Since Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda made the announcement in 2012 when he presented the 2013 national budget, Government has attracted criticism.
The workers through ZCTU have argued that the wage freeze was illegal as Zambia is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation convention which promotes free collective bargaining.
The Zambian labour laws also encourage free collective bargaining in salary awards for unionised workers.
It is from this background that the workers feel strongly about Government’s decision and would like to demonstrate this through a march.
The Public Order Act is clear that those who want to march or demonstrate can notify Police on their intention.
The Police on their part should have the right to ask for assurances from ZCTU on the safety measures put in place so that the demonstrations are peaceful.
There is no need for the ZCTU demonstrations to take on a violent nature.
There is no need for any party to this dispute to cause the loss of property or life when channels still exist for a peaceful resolution to the matter.
We understand that members of the collective bargaining unit are still meeting under the chair of a conciliator.
This is the next step when the union and the employer cannot agree on new salary increase.
Although this conciliation process started months ago, Zambians have not been told whether the bargaining process has broken down irretrievably.
Even if the conciliation process broke down, there is still the next stage of labour conflict resolution.
The Industrial Relations Court was created for the purpose of hearing an aggrieved party who is dissatisfied with the conciliation process.
So, as the ZCTU and affiliates march in protest against the wage freeze, they should have it at the back of their minds that the channels for labour conflict resolutions have not been exhausted.
They can still take the matter to the Industrial Relations Court if the outcome of the conciliation process will not meet their expectations.
Having said this, we maintain that ZCTU has a legitimate right to demonstrate and voice out their anger as long as they follow the law.